Redox-active iron, catalyzing the generation of reactive oxygen species, has been implicated in experimental renal ischemia-reperfusion injury. However, in clinical transplantation, it is unknown whether redox-active iron is involved in the pathophysiology of ischemic injury of non-heart-beating (NHB) donor kidneys. We measured redox-active iron concentrations in perfusate samples of 231 deceased donor kidneys that were preserved by machine pulsatile perfusion at our institution between May 1998 and November 2002 using the bleomycin detectable iron assay. During machine pulsatile perfusion, redox-active iron was released into the preservation solution. Ischemically injured NHB donor kidneys had significantly higher perfusate redox-active iron concentrations than heart-beating (HB) donor kidneys that were not subjected to warm ischemia (3.9 +/- 1.1 vs. 2.8 +/- 1.0 mumol/L, p = 0.001). Moreover, redox-active iron concentration was an independent predictor of post-transplant graft viability (odds ratio 1.68, p = 0.01) and added predictive value to currently available donor and graft characteristics. This was particularly evident in uncontrolled NHB donor kidneys for which there is the greatest uncertainty about transplant outcomes. Therefore, perfusate redox-active iron concentration shows promise as a novel viability marker of NHB donor kidneys.